Although uncommon, black bear encounters occur. As black bear encounters become more common over the coming years, it’s important that people know how to live and recreate alongside them.
Black bears once roamed all of Ohio. Unfortunately, unregulated hunting and habitat destruction led to black bears completely disappearing from the state by the 1850s. In recent years, black bears from West Virginia and Pennsylvania have been recolonizing parts of eastern Ohio on their own. The vast majority of these black bears are young males that are trying to find their own territory and potential mates. These young males generally don’t stick around an area permanently, and instead roam around looking for just the “right” place.
Today, black bears have been recorded in all three units of the national forest. And because most of the black bears here are roaming young males, a bear could show up just about anywhere! It should be emphasized that encountering a black bear in the national forest is a very rare, and noteworthy, event.
It’s important that residents and visitors know how to peacefully coexist alongside these native animals. Here are some tips to be bear aware:
➤ Secure and lock up your trash at home to deter black bears from rummaging through it.
➤ When camping, secure all smellable items (e.g., food, trash, deodorant) out of the reach of bears. Store smellable items in a properly-hung bear bag, secured in a bear canister, or packed away in a locked vehicle.
➤ Do not let your dog roam off-leash. Dogs can readily provoke black bears, and most black bear attacks on humans involve dogs in some capacity. Remember that all dogs must be leashed when on a trail or at developed recreation site here in the Wayne National Forest.
➤ If you encounter a black bear, 1) stay calm, do not run, and move slowly, 2) firmly speak to the bear and make yourself look large, 3) and back away slowly. If the bear begins to approach, try to scare it away by making yourself as large and imposing as possible by stretching your arms overhead and making loud noises.
➤ Never feed a black bear (or any wild animal). A fed bear is a dead bear.
Learn more tips to be bear aware: https://www.fs.usda.gov/visit/know-before-you-go/bears